38 In Insight

The art of creative interpretation

batts Fiber art is a funny thing.


It’s funny because it can go so many ways. It can be really pretty or just made to be hardworking, utilitarian or ornamental, very soft and comforting or luxurious or hard and stiff… or combinations of many of these. It can fulfill a need for process, or a need for function – or a mix of both. You can stay very traditional or go totally wild or build with one direction then finish in the other method. And all of these options are Right and Good and usually Fun, too.


Fiber artists seem to love challenges, or at least the ones I tend to befriend sure do! We love to explore different ways to take our art in different directions, expand our skills, and move beyond what we’ve already tried. Sometimes we do that by spinning a new-to-us fiber or fiber combination, or by using colors or textures that are unfamiliar. Other times, we grab “ingredients” to add into our work that make us rethink how twist and texture can play together to make something that will both stand as a yarn and as a piece of art. And we can take an inspiration, like music or a place or a favorite movie, and interpret that into fiber and yarn and possibly a finished object All of these are incredibly fun and great for keeping us fresh and excited about what we do. But sometimes, especially when this exploration is a new thing for us, it can be hard to know where to start.

Here’s how I approach a challenge. 

The first thing that I do is to take a piece of paper and start out working with my inspiration and writing down everything that it makes me think about or feel. For example, for a piece of music, I would play it and while I am listening to it, I would write down the feelings it inspires, how I see the story that it is telling, what colors and textures that brings up in me. Then I would consider how I would use tone and fiber to interpret that. In Heartbreak Hotel – what do the rooms look like? Where IS Lonely Street? Is the bed in the room a lumpy one? [I bet it is.]
For a grab bag of add-in ingredients, I spread them out on a table first and think about how they all can relate to each other. What is the common story? Once I have that, it can tell me how I want to bring them together in a yarn. Then the next step there is “how will all these things get actually added in to the physical yarn?” I cover that a bit in my “Can You Spin This?” video that I made in conjunction with The Spin Artiste, if you want to hear more about that thought process.

opener spin this


You can also use this idea when looking to interpret a movie or a photo – you can work from a color palette, or a mood/feeling, or the textures in the image or cinematography. I like using a palette maker like Colourlovers or Design Seed to help me pull a pleasant color combo out of images – it’s a great jumping-off point.


Embracing challenges in your spinning is a wonderful way to expand your skillset! If you are interested in experiencing some group challenges, please do join us in Nevermore Forevermore, as we participate in these regularly, and I’d say that we all learn from each other’s adventures as well as our own attempts. And a BIG thank you to Martha Manigross of Spinning My Wheel Fibers for the inspiration for this blog post – asking questions always lifts us all!

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  • Reply
    George Crawford
    July 14, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    Brilliant post, Chris!!!!

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